In the incomparable show “30 Rock,” the character Jenna Maroney describes love as such:
“It’s hiding who you are at all times. It’s wearing makeup to bed and going downstairs to the Burger King to poop!”
I remember sharing this sentiment as a younger woman. I carried my cosmetic bag everywhere I went. I brushed my hair hourly. My legs were always shaved. If I was eating in front of a man, I was eating salad or pecking at my dish with feigned disinterest. God, it’s so asinine, the pleasures I withheld from myself in order to acquiesce to the male gaze.
The night I met my husband, I was drinking a low calorie Michelob Ultra. That was my go-to drink, or a rum and diet. I don’t remember what he was drinking but it was much cooler than a domestic light beer. He’s a bona fide foodie, but he also despises words like “foodie,” which are honestly the best kind of foodies. He was a restaurant manager with a seasoned career in the food industry, and as our relationship took off, so did my immersion into the Chicago area culinary scene. Nothing was off limits: sashimi and quail eggs, wild game meat, Pakistani street food, Eastern European bohemian (where you get a cup of jello and a side of cottage cheese for dessert), and everything in between.
It may sound like our relationship was sponsored by “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” but the one hiccup is that I have a very sensitive stomach. We’re talking IBS, lactose intolerance, and fingers that swell to the proportions of a bloated pig intestine should my body have to process the slightest hint of salt. However, unlike the thousands of other women with precious stomachs who also have boundaries and discipline, I choose to just power through the pain.
I’ve sacrificed my body to good food, which is way better than sacrificing my body to Fleece Vest Chad.
You know how you know you’ve met your life partner? After you’ve collectively scooped brain from a duck skull during dim sum in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood. After you’ve eaten a questionable batch of cuttlefish, after you’ve said, “YES PLEASE” to every bit of meat and shell fish on a lopsided lazy susan.
It was mere weeks into dating that I joined my now-husband’s family for a celebratory Chinese brunch. My sister-in-law is from Shanghai and is a delightfully adventurous diner. Not only am I game for anything that hits my plate under normal circumstances, but I also served up some serious new girlfriend gusto, enthusiastically blurting out “YUM” for a cool 90 minutes.
For the entire drove home via Chicago’s westbound I-290 expressway, I felt untouchable. I had just won the Girlfriend Super Bowl. There was no conversation I couldn’t join, no 1980s pop culture reference I couldn’t glom onto, no Cantonese dish I wouldn’t toss down my esophagus with the enthusiasm of a thousand homecoming dates.
“That went great!” he said as he squeezed my thigh.
It sure did. IT SURE DID.
…until it didn’t.
His bathroom floor tile was so cold as it pressed up against my cheek. That damn cuttlefish. A mere two hours ago, I casually tossed that cursed animal into my mouth as I waxed poetic about Fleetwood Mac with my future father-in-law. It served its purpose that afternoon but punished my hubris that evening.
Like one of those wall-mounted singing bass fish, the cuttlefish taunted me and my delicate bowels to the tune of Talking Heads’ “Take Me to the River.”
“Babe, are you okay?”
If there’s any place I wished I could have been at that moment, it was evacuating dim sum from both ends at the Burger King, not in my new boyfriend’s apartment. No amount of sultry eyeliner or potpourri spray could offset this nightmare.
I was mortified. Fleece Vest Chad would never abide. But Allen, future husband, did.
He rubbed my back. He kissed my head. He poured me a glass of club soda. He pretended not to smell the bioterrorism my body just unleashed through the 800 square foot apartment he called home.
My mouth muttered “DON’T TOUCH ME” but my eyes said, “I LOVE YOU.” I slept on his dilapidated green couch that night, clenching my orifices in humiliation. I knew in that moment I would hold his heart in my heart forever.
Ladies, if you want to find your one true love, don’t rely on astrology or Cosmo quizzes or the judgement of your friends. Eat a bad batch of seafood and let it ride. The man who holds your hand as you crap your pants is certainly the man with whom you want to grow old.